• Casey Leone

"And they call it 'bella notte'!" Lady and the Tramp inspired dinner!

"So this is the night, its a beautiful night..." We made a family decision to have spaghetti and meatballs for our Christmas dinner this year. Lady and the Tramp is such a beautiful movie, and starts and ends with a beautiful victorian style Christmas scene. This animated Disney classic, released in 1955, is a love story between two pups from very different backgrounds. On their journey to falling in love, they run from the dog catcher, fight off not so friendly strays, walk through the park, and of course have a delicious private Italian dinner at the best restaurant in town. They ever so dearly share a plate of spaghetti and meatballs while being serenaded with a beautiful Italian song. This film has definitely stood the test of time, and Disney recently filmed a reboot live action version that was released in November 2019 with the Disney live streaming hub called Disney+.

I flipped through my Disney cookbooks and found this vintage recipe from 1975. The illustration alone was reason enough to share this recipe, however, I did not use it. I actually used my very own recipe. I make my sauce from scratch, and I use ground chicken instead of beef or pork. I call them my "chicken parm" meatballs. They are a little lighter on your stomach, packed full of flavor, and can be made into an Italian meatloaf as well! For dessert, we made a traditional Cassata cake, which is essentially a vanilla rum cake with a ricotta chocolate chip filling and whipped cream frosting. If you like rum, vanilla, and ricotta, you will LOVE this cake. I do believe it would taste just fine without the rum if alcohol in desserts is not your thing though.

Fresh herbs help to create an aromatic experience and should always be pared with wine and music. I was able to snatch some fresh basil and fresh parsley from the store in the dead of winter. I always start my sauce first. I use a few different types of tomatoes, usually depending on the season and how they look in the grocery store. This time I opted for kumatos (heirloom variety) grape tomatoes, and tomatoes on the vine. I throw them in the pot with some olive oil, salt and pepper and put the lid on to let them steam and open.

Once the tomatoes start to deflate and cook down, I add my herbs and garlic and simmer for a little while. After I can really start to smell them cooking, I put my mixture into the ninja and blend well for a smoother sauce. I don't always do this, its really preference whether you want a more rustic textured sauce or a simpler textured sauce. When I am making a large batch of meatballs, I usually opt to blend the sauce to make more room for the meatballs in the pot.

Next, I add two cans of diced organic tomatoes. Always check the can depending on the brand! They add garlic or onion or loads of sugar and it can really do some damaged to what you've already started in the pot! I let this mixture simmer while I mix the meatballs.

OK! I've posted in the past with fair warning that I really don't ever measure anything out. I am like the little Italian grandmother using handfuls, pinches, and eyeballing how much of something that something needs. For the meatballs, I mix ground chicken, old fashioned oats, egg, parmesan, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil, a little garlic and onion powder. Another texture you could add to these if you feel like chopping is some finely chopped grape tomatoes.

The size of the meatball is dependent on the size of your family and the size of your patience. If I'm pressed for time you are getting big misshaped meatballs, if I have lots of time and the girls are entertained then you are getting small perfectly round meatballs. TRUTH. This time around, we are somewhere in the middle. Medium, almost golfball sized and pretty round. I cautiously plop them in the sauce as I make them to be sure that I space them appropriately. I also do not stir them whatsoever until they have cooked in the sauce a while. No one wants to go through all that rolling and plopping if they are just going to fall apart and break in the sauce!

These cook covered for about an hour? on a low simmer? After about 20 minutes of simmering I grab a wooden spoon and gently shift the meatballs around being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so the sauce doesn't settle and over cook. I usually take a meatball out and cut it open to check that they are cooked all the way through.

I usually make a classic spaghetti with it, al dente, and toss the pasta in the sauce with some more EVOO then pour more sauce and 3-4 medium sized meatballs. For a family of four I make this recipe with about two pounds of meat if I want some left overs!

Cassata cake is a traditional Sicilian rum cake, not too sweet, with just the right amount of richness to cap off the heavier meal. It was relatively easy to make, and I had some fun assembling it!

The recipe starts off with a classic vanilla cake or sponge cake. After it cooled off, I brushed it with a sugar/rum mixture. The filling is definitely something you can just eat out of the bowl while binge watching some classics. But there was no time for that, as I was making this for our Christmas party.

The frosting was a light and airy but sweet addition and complimented the heavy ricotta filling well. The shaved almonds were absolutely an opportunity for creativity, perfect for a special occasion like Christmas!

One other dessert I needed to have was the Ciambella Del Mattino or Morning Bundt Cake. It's a very simple vanilla and dark chocolate swirl cake baked in a cast iron bundt pan to really give it a nice thick crust, topped with powdered sugar.

This cake was exceptional. We had it for dessert, and breakfast. It is perfect for coffee, and I might even consider making muffins with this recipe... stay tuned for that!

In Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, you can find a Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant called Tony's Town Square. Back in the stone age, they used to be open for breakfast. We loved the Lady and the Tramp waffle (I'm on the hunt for a waffle iron or dinner ware if anyone knows anything about it). Pictured below is a menu from the early 90's and the most recent menu that I've seen.

If there's a petition happening that I'm unaware of to bring back Tony's breakfast and a L & T waffle please send me the info because I'm ready to join. This place is gorgeous. They actually hold wedding receptions here after hours, and its a great spot during parades if you are sitting by the window.

So this is the night, a beautiful night. Carbs, meat, cheese, sauce, wine, and cake. Does it get any better? Only if you are sitting at Tony's in the happiest place on earth watching the parade go by while eating carbs, meat, cheese, sauce, wine, and cake. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a properly rounded meatball.

-Casey, The Travelorian

Ingredients for "Chicken Parm" Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

1 container of Kumatos

1 large container of cherub grape tomatoes

4-5 tomatoes on the vine

2 large cans of organic diced tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves

3 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp oregano

3-4 tbsp fresh basil chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 tsp sugar

"Chicken Parm" Meatballs

2 lbs of ground chicken (not ground chicken breast)

2 eggs

2/3 cup of rolled oats (2 small handfuls)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup of grated parmesan

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp fresh parsley

1 tbsp fresh basil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

For the Sauce:

1. Place all tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic into large sauce pot on medium/high heat. Cover and let steam until tomatoes open and reduce.

2. Add salt, pepper, sugar, herbs, and stir well. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and blend with an emulsifier or place in blender and blend well, letting the steam escape to avoid exploding sauce. Add back to your sauce pot.

4. Stir the canned diced tomatoes. Simmer for 20-25 minutes before adding meatballs.

For the Meatballs:

1. Mix all meat ball ingredients well in a large mixing bowl.

2. Roll into golf ball sized balls and place into simmering sauce.

3. Cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes on low heat. Serve with al dente spaghetti and enjoy!

Cassata Cake


1 package of yellow cake mix

1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese

1 cup of mini semi sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup and 2 tbsp granulated sugar divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp dark rum

1/4 cup water

1 cup of heavy cream

2 tbsp confectioners sugar

1 cup of sliced almonds

  1. Bake the cake according to the directions on the box in two 9-inch cake pans. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 mins before removing from cake pans. Let completely cool on wire rack.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix well, cover, and store in refrigerator until needed.

  3. In a small bowl, combine rum, water, and remaining granulated sugar, mix well.

  4. Drizzle or brush the prepared rum evenly between the two cakes on the surface. You can trim the top of the cake to allow for better absorption.

  5. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly, then top with the other cake layer.

  6. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat heavy cream and confectioners' sugar on high speed for 5-6 minutes. Frost the cake and sprinkle or place shaved almonds on top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Check out https://aromaticessence.co/cassata-cake/ for more information on this recipe

Ciambella del Mattino (Morning Bundt Cake)


2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (218 grams) all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) baking powder

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 1/3 cups (256 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 ml) milk

1 1/2 tablespoons (11 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

Powdered sugar optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (177˚C), then grease and flour a 9-inch (23-cm) Bundt pan.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and granulated sugar for approximately 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Slowly add the vegetable oil and vanilla, beating to combine. Then, add the flour mixture a little at a time, beating between additions. Add the milk and beat to combine.

  4. Pour two-thirds of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining one-third of the batter and stir until well combined. Spoon the cocoa batter on top of the plain batter and swirl lightly with the tip of a knife. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

  5. Let the cake cool completely and dust it with powdered sugar (if using) before serving.

Check out https://tarasmulticulturaltable.com/ciambella-del-mattino-morning-bundt-cake/ for more information on this recipe!